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Heavy snowfall, black ice cause traffic chaos in Germany

January 18, 2024

Severe snowfall in parts of the country has brought road transport to a halt and crippled air traffic. Many cars and lorries have got stuck on icy roads.

A vehicle clears the streets of snow in the Dresden city center
The German Weather Service is expecting some places to be hit with as much as 30 centimeters of snow over the next 24 hoursImage: Robert Michael/dpa/picture alliance

A severe winter snow storm that hit western and southern Germany on Wednesday has caused major traffic disruptions, including kilometers-long traffic jams on the nation's highways.

The icy and slippery roads have led to many accidents.

Many cars and trucks have also been trapped in the deep snow.

Snowfall and freezing rain in Germany: Joscha Weber reports

In some cases, salt and gravel-spreading vehicles could no longer get past the stranded vehicles, making it difficult to clear the blockages.

Towing services were called in to push or tow away the lorries.

But it proved difficult for them to get to the affected areas, as the snow made it tough for other drivers to form rescue lanes.

Emergency services provided those stranded in their vehicles with blankets and hot drinks.

What's the impact on flight services?

The German Weather Service says heavy snowfall is likely to continue in parts of the country, expecting some places to be hit with as much as 30 centimeters of snow over the next 24 hours.

The weather conditions have also crippled air traffic.

At Frankfurt airport, Germany's busiest, ,ore than 300 of about 1,000 scheduled flights for Thursday at have been cancelled.

The airport cited a danger of de-iced aircraft icing up again as they taxied toward the runway.

The airport said on its website that passengers should check their flight status before going to the airport. "If your flight is canceled, please do not come to the airport."

Cars and trucks on the A5 highway near Zeppelinheim
The icy and slippery roads have led to many accidentsImage: Lando Hass/dpa/picture alliance

How is train traffic affected?

Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany's national train operator, also canceled several long-distance and regional trains on Wednesday.

Furthermore, it limited the maximum speed of its ICE high-speed trains to 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) for the day as a precaution.

DB warned that the weather conditions will also impact its operations on Thursday.

The train connections between Stuttgart and Paris and between Frankfurt and Paris will be particularly affected, it said.

Railroad workers clear the tracks of snow on northern Germany's 1,142-meter (3,743 feet) highest mountain 'Brocken' at the Harz mountains near Schierke
Heavy snowfall and icy conditions upended air, car and train travel across Germany fora second day on ThursdayImage: Matthias Schrader/AP Photo/picture alliance

What's the situation in Scandinavia?

Heavy snowfall also brought traffic to a standstill in large parts of Scandinavia.

Police in several parts of Denmark urged people to stay home.

The airport in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, was closed temporarily on Wednesday as the challenging weather conditions reduced visibility for pilots.

Shipping company Maersk also said that weather-related disruption at ports in northern Europe, in addition to the volatile security situation in the Red Sea, is causing logistical problems. 

"Winter weather conditions as well as the Red Sea contingencies are expected to affect operations across Europe and Hub terminals," Maersk said.

"This is leading to increased yard density across terminals and customers are kindly asked to pick up their units as soon as possible after discharge to support fluidity," it said.

sri/lo (AP, dpa)